Reluctant Habits

Inside BookTour.com: A Q&A With Kevin Smokler

Posted by in Amazon, Bookstores, Technology

In 2006, Kevin Smokler, the speaker and editor behind Bookmark Now, partnered with Chris Anderson, editor of Wired, and software developer Adam Goldstein to determine just how information about bookstore events and authors might be collected at an online hub. That central place turned out to be BookTour.com, which purports to make “finding when a favorite author is coming to your town as easy as checking the weather.” This sunny mission got a much needed dose of radiation back in April when BookTour received a $350,000 cash injection from Amazon.com….read more

Dia de los Vivos — Flower Parade 2009

Posted by in Ed's Films, New York

On June 28, 2009, I attended The Flower Parade. I knew nothing about the parade, but learned very quickly that its intent was to celebrate Colombia. The above film, “Dia de los Vivos,” presents the spirit that I observed and participated in.

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Alice Hoffman: The Most Immature Writer of Her Generation

Posted by in Book Reviewing

I’ve seen wild narcissism from authors in reaction to a review, but Alice Hoffman’s recent tweeting takes the cake. The Boston Globe‘s Roberta Silman reviewed Hoffman’s latest book, The Story Sisters. Silman wrote that Hoffman’s latest novel “lacks the spark of the earlier work.” The main character is “incredibly passive and doesn’t seem to have any of the normal anxiety of a mother in a time and place where hormones are raging, drugs are rife, and dangers abound.” In fact, Silman even commends Hoffman for one section of the book…read more

The History of Verizon, Part Three (September to October 2000)

Posted by in Business, History, Labor, Telecommunications, Verizon

[EDITOR'S NOTE: About a year ago, I began a comprehensive history about the expansion of Verizon. I don't know if I will ever finish the narrative, because the story is quite complicated. But here is the next installment in the series. Part One, which concerns itself with April to August 2000, can be found here. Part Two, which concerns itself with August 2000, can be found here.] With the August strike eating eighteen days of steady service, Verizon Communications faced a considerable delay in work orders. There were 50,000 delayed…read more

Hoaxes Are Still Possible in the Internet Age

Posted by in Hoaxes

An Australian television station fell for the Jeff Goldblum death rumor that circulated yesterday and even included a Jeff Goldbum montage in its report. (More here.) (via Metafilter)

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What Michael Jackson Gave Me

Posted by in jackson-michael

1. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up. But the first (and one of the few) albums that I had was the picture disc of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Before that, I would nervously call the DJ at my FM radio station and ask him to play Michael Jackson. The disc was played over and over, and I began to deconstruct how the sounds came together. The synth egg shake on “Wanna Be Startin’ Soemthin’” and “Billie Jean.” The way in which the guitars were mixed together in “Beat…read more

Michael Jackson Dead

Posted by in jackson-michael, Obits

While TMZ and Gawker are reporting that Michael Jackson is dead, I wish to point out that there has been no official confirmation of his death. I spoke with Craig Harvey of the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office and he informed me that there was no official confirmation of his death as of 3:00 PM Pacific Time. The person who is legally obligated to confirm the death is Jackson’s physician. And as of yet, there has been no official announcement. UPDATE: As of 3:15 PM Pacific Time, the Los Angeles…read more

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Three Producers Fired from American News Project?

Posted by in Journalism

I received a tip that three producers at the American News Project had been fired. The American News Project is directed by Nick Penniman, who also serves as the Executive Director of the Huffington Post Investigative Fund. The Investigative Fund was only just announced by Arianna Huffington back in April. I managed to get associate producer Lagan Sebert on the phone, who sounded a bit nervous. He told me that he could neither confirm nor deny that there were firings, but indicated that there may possibly be an announcement. I…read more

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RIP Farrah Fawcett

Posted by in Obits

The above clip, from The Partridge Family, set a celebratory impulse into motion. Farrah Fawcett was 23. And even within the seemingly vanilla universe of the Partridges, she still wore a dress that revealed her tawny anatomy, which was always offset by her bubbly voice. Fawcett, of course, would become best-known for Charlie’s Angels for these qualities. And as I was to understand from friends who had surfed along the raging tide of puberty ten to fifteen years before me, Fawcett was the picture you had on the inside of…read more

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Review: Pleasure at Her Majesty’s (1976) and The Secret Policeman’s Ball (1979)

Posted by in Comedy, Film, Monty Python

You know that cultural journalism is in a sorry state when only four people show up for a screening, and not a single dead soul (save for myself, still chortling with pulse) has the courage to laugh at legendary comedy material or get excited by consummate performers tinkering with sketches like tetchy scientists. I was in a darkened theater for a film called Pleasure at Her Majesty’s, part of The Secret Policeman’s Film Festival, which kicks off this Friday at the Lincoln Center. The Festival even includes, for those cineastes…read more

Chris Anderson, Plagiarist?

Posted by in anderson-chris, Plagiarism

The Virginia Quarterly Review‘s Waldo Jaquith has uncovered several instances of apparent plagiarism within Chris Anderson’s forthcoming book, Free. Unfortunately, I have learned that the VQR‘s investigations only begin to scratch the surface. A cursory plunge into the book’s contents reveals that Anderson has not only cribbed material from Wikipedia and websites (sometimes without accreditation), but that he has a troubling habit of mentioning a book or an author and using this as an excuse to reproduce the content with very few changes — in some cases, nearly verbatim. As…read more

Play Spock Off, Keyboard Cat

Posted by in Star Trek

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The Joys of Nicholson Baker

Posted by in Baker, Nicholson

I was a bookish and uncertain young man bouncing around law firms when a playfully perverse paperback halted my calisthenics on the ontological trampoline. The book was The Fermata. Its titular notational symbol stretched across the soft pink cover like a giddy golden rainbow, resembling an Orwellian eye or a junior high schooler’s crude doodle of a mammary gland. As I plunged into its pages, I found myself delighted by a surprisingly erudite novel depicting the lives of office workers – a world I knew quite well — in skippy…read more

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Editorial Policy

Posted by in Journalistic Ethics

In response to developments at the Federal Trade Commission, I have established an editorial policy, an addendum to a post that I put up in June 2008, to address any and all ethical concerns. While I applaud the FTC for cracking down on “journalists” who serve mostly as odious junketeers, I don’t believe that these guidelines are fair to other bloggers who are more driven by honest journalism, and who practice with clean hands and composure. The new guidelines are a double standard, designed to give greater power to other…read more

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New Roundtable Discussion Date

Posted by in Roundtable

Ladies and gentlemen, for those eagerly watching the skies, there has been a slight change in plans. Due to unforeseen circumstances, we will be discussing Ellen Ruppel Shell’s Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture during the week of July 13th, not the previous week (as previously announced). Yes, this is a fundamentally simple piece of data. The equivalent of attending a math class, walking up to a chalkboard with an eraser, wiping out a number in an equation, and replacing it with another number. If you did this, it…read more

Richard Farrell Saved Me

Posted by in Memoirs

I killed my dad. And then I killed Richard Farrell’s dad.. And then I killed my mom. And then I killed Richard Farrell’s mom. I didn’t blow any of these people away with a gun. Instead, I let them die. I pulled a kitchen chair up next to Richard Farrell and watched him struggle to come up with a tough and gritty narrative. I punched him in the face fifty times, and said, “Live, you bastard! There’s no room for the commonplace! If six of your family members don’t die…read more

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This Door Was Intended Only for You

Posted by in Film

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Our July Roundtable Book Revealed!

Posted by in Roundtable

Ladies and gentlemen, during the week of July 13th, 2009, an intrepid team of journalists, unusual voices, first wave bloggers, and second wave bloggers will congregate on these pages to discuss Ellen Ruppel Shell’s Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture. We will be serializing our discussion over the course of that week and, as always, your feedback is welcome in the comments. You might remember Ellen Ruppel Shell’s previous book, The Hungry Gene, which explored the topic of obesity from numerous angles. Shell’s latest book tackles the subject of…read more

The Geeks

Posted by in Neighbors, Sex

The geeks in the upstairs apartment moved out. I called them the geeks because I always heard the guy drilling holes into the walls at odd hours — the working theory being that he was constructing some homemade dungeon. I once heard the Nazi theme from Day of Defeat booming through his speakers, the battle sounds rattling through that thin partition between ceiling and floor. The first geek — a dark-haired, t-shirt wearing dude around thirty — was lonely. There were prospective dates, but enough disparate intervals between women for…read more

Family Disgrace

Posted by in Twitter

To paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt, nobody can make you feel inauthentic without your consent. And the phony who uttered the onerous words recorded by the good and kind Don Linn should be whacked in the kneecaps. Just so the phony can decide whether or not there is indeed a metric that can be applied while excruciating pain shoots through legs I realize that these are strong words, but they are necessary ones, I think. If you cannot feel and you wish to advocate emotional capitulation, then you have no business being…read more

The Bat Segundo Show: Guy Maddin

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Film

Guy Maddin appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #293. Guy Maddin is most recently the author of My Winnipeg, a book version of the film of the same name. For listeners who are fans of reading and watching films, this conversation accounts for all experiences and contains more than a few prevarications. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Reconsidering the veracity of his topography. Guest: Guy Maddin Subjects Discussed: Whether living in Winnipeg for many year makes one an expert of Winnipeg, expertise and confused feelings, the importance of not straying from…read more

Review: Dead Snow (2009)

Posted by in Film

Earlier this year, numerous enthusiasts exploded in their pants over a movie that had not yet snagged American distribution. If you were among the throbbing throng to take in the trailer — yet another eyeball-attracting rite encouraged by the Internet’s discouragement of cultural apostasy — you may very well have shouted, “HOLY SHIT! NAZI ZOMBIES! WELL, PINCH MY EARS AND CALL ME A JELLY DONUT! I MUST SEE THIS MOVIE! I MEAN, IT EVEN HAS FUCKING SUBTITLES!” It was the geek equivalent of a thirteen-year-old boy wrestling with a nervous…read more

Bubbles: A Consideration

Posted by in Bubbles, Ed's Films, New York

On June 12, 2009, I attended a bubble battle in New York. But the event wasn’t really a battle — at least not in the traditional sense. Hundred of people who didn’t know each other gathered in Times Square to blow bubbles. It seemed like such a simple act, but it turned out to be so much more. And I hope that the above film, “Bubbles: A Consideration,” gives anyone who wasn’t able to attend a sense of the possibilities.

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BEA 2009: The Truth About Book Piracy

Posted by in BEA, ebooks, Piracy

At BookExpo America, Wet Asphalt’s Eric Rosenfield entered into a lengthy conversation with Brian O’Leary of Magellan Media. And it became necessary to capture their quasi-caffeinated colloquy for reasons that will soon become apparent. I had seen O’Leary earlier in the year at the “Challenging Notions of Free” panel at Tools of Change, along with O’Reilly’s Mac Slocum and Random House’s director of business development Chelsea Vaughan. O’Reilly and Random House had agreed to participate in a study hoping to pinpoint the effects of P2P distribution — namely, the impact…read more

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The Gray Lady Just Grew a Few More Gray Hairs

Posted by in New York Times

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c End Times thedailyshow.com Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Newt Gingrich Unedited Interview

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The Mad Scientist

Posted by in Writing

This post was intended to be a mashup of sentences from posts I’ve had sitting in draft form over the last month. But as I got to assembling it — or, more accurately, not assembling it — I found myself free associating and thinking about silly things. In fact, I’m writing this sentence after I have written the two paragraphs that follow this one. The first sentence read differently and was originally attached to the beginning of the next paragraph, before I just rolled in with my effrontery and cut…read more

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An Interview with Edward Champion

Posted by in Uncategorized

t the end of the end of May, edrants.com announced the appointment of its American editor Edward Champion to the role of acting editor. Up until this point in time, it had never occurred to us to have American editors, acting editors, or indeed editors of any type. There was just one guy at the helm named Ed. Perhaps his first name is actually “Editor.” But since certain literary magazines have seen so many people leaving, resigning, and otherwise exiting the doors with a banker’s box of literary belongings, it…read more

Bad Neighbors

Posted by in Franzen, Jonathan, New Yorker

Walter and Patty Melted were the young products of Franzen Hill — the first dreadful characters to spit out of the misanthropic novelist’s mind since the old heart of The Twenty-Seventh City had fallen on hard times two decades earlier. The Melteds hadn’t done anything to that bitter elitist hillock in Manhattan, except have the misfortune to run into it and kill themselves for ten years while the ultramontane deities renovated them. Early on, some very determined blogger torched the shit monster and did everything except beat this sad lifeless…read more

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Roundtable Discussion Coming in July

Posted by in Roundtable

It came together at the last minute, but this website is going to be featuring a roundtable discussion during the week of July 8, 2009. For those readers who have enjoyed our previous roundtable discussions of Richard Powers’s The Echo Maker, Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke, Eric Kraft’s Flying, and various other books, this casual but thoughtful symposium in July will operate along similar lines. I cannot reveal the book at this time. But I can tell you that the book is nonfiction and deals with a significant issue — something…read more

BEA 2009: The Cool-Er Reader

Posted by in BEA, ebooks, Ereaders

As widely reported over the past week, BookExpo America featured several $249 e-readers. And while I certainly observed many people salivating over e-readers as a whole, a good deal of drool congealed around the edges of Interead’s Cool-Er Reader. Teleread’s Paul Biba reported that the Cool-Er is “very light and feels good on the hand.” (The Interread people did not allow me to corroborate Mr. Biba’s findings. While I don’t desire to undermine Mr. Biba’s understandable excitement, I would not be doing my duty if I didn’t point out that…read more

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